Making Smarter Bets: Eight Horse Racing Lessons Learned (2023)

If you plan to make a long-term habit of handicapping and betting horse races, you’ll gradually realize that it’s an endeavor that challenges you to constantly learn and adapt. Such is the nature of gambling against your peers in pari-mutuel wagering.

I’ve been betting Thoroughbred racing since I was in high school and we’d make the 15-minute trek down I-95 to Delaware Park. I’m not afraid to admit, for a large percentage of my gambling life I’ve made stupid mistakes, but hopefully I can provide a few tips that I’ve learned since I moved to Lexington in 2005 and fully immersed myself in horse racing.

1. Prepare

It seems simple, but you need to put in the work in advance handicapping the card so you know going into the day which races you have the strongest opinion about. You don’t want to get to the last or second-to-last race on the card and uncover the horse that you liked most for the entire day after already blowing through 90% of the money you budgeted.

(Video) AMAZING Horse Racing System | Make ££££ With Each Way Value Betting (No Lay)

2. Budget Intelligently

This is the hardest part for me because, like most gamblers, I like the action of having a few bucks on the races I watch. It’s really hard and it takes discipline to pass on a race, but if you like quite a few runners on a card, but love two or three, you should bet the majority (or all) of your bankroll with bets built around the horses you feel most strongly about.

If you’ve budgeted $100 for 10 races, why would you bet $10 per race when you’ve clearly identified your best bets? If you love two or three horses, build a strategy around those two or three horses or simply bet most of your bankroll on those horses to win. If you are spending the day at the track and really want to have at least a little action on every race, bet just a few bucks on the races where you don’t have a strong opinion and leave most of the budgeted money for your top plays.

3. Demand a Price

(Video) How to Bet on Horses | Horse Racing Tips | Horse Racing Betting 101

There is value to finding horses that seem to be almost slam dunks to win, but that value might be skipping the race entirely or identifying longshots to fill in underneath for exactas, trifectas, or superfectas and around for multi-race wagers like the Pick 4.

Your top plays should offer value – in other words, a horse you think has a much better chance to win than his morning-line odds when planning, or live odds when betting, indicate. If you think a horse has a 25% chance to win and the odds are 5-1, that’s value. If you think a horse has a 10% to 15%chance to win and you get 15-1 to 20-1, that’s great value.

4. Bet to Win

I spent a good part of my early betting days making across-the-board bets, especially when I landed on a longshot, and there is something to be said for being rewarded when a bomb clunks up or hangs on for a minor spot, but in general I’ve come around to betting almost exclusively straight win bets when I’m not playing exotic bets. If you make three substantial win bets on horses at a solid value, you only need one winner to make a nice profit. If two-thirds of that money is tied up in place and show bets, you might need all three to run well.

(Video) How I Made £25,349 From Sports Betting In One Year (2021) - Part Two - Horse Racing Betting

The win bet should be the key bet, especially for newcomers. Takeout (the amount of money that goes to the track that is not returned to bettors) for win, place, and show bets is less than most exotic bets. Most importantly, don’t bet two or more horses to win in the same race. You start out with at least one bet that’s a guaranteed loser, and it’s a recipe for disaster in the long term.

5. Aim High

Part of the reason I like to play exotic bets, specifically trifectas and Pick4s, is that you have a chance to win big. The allure of horse racing when comparing it with sports betting is the chance to win a bundle without risking that same bundle. Try to find creative ways to use your top plays to make the most money, and if you can’t string together a trifecta or multi-race wager you feel really good about, you always have the straight win bet to fall back on. But, if you connect a few decent prices around or underneath an 8-1 top play, you could be looking at a huge score.

6. Identify Vulnerable Favorites

I know this seems obvious, but one thing I’ve discovered over the years is that handicapping is not just about picking the winner. The biggest opportunities often come when you identify a heavy favorite as vulnerable, or find several favorites that you have zero interest in betting. That’s a great spot to make a stand in exotic bets. Think about it: Asignificant percentage of the other tickets probably will include those favorites, while your resources are not tied to them and are instead dedicated to finding better value elsewhere on the ticket.

7. Resist Using the ALL Button

We’ve all done it before, we get lazy and just press the ALL button for third place in the trifecta or for a 2-year-old maiden race filled with first-time starters in a Pick 3 or Pick 4. For me, it used to be turf sprints where I’d just throw up my hands. But, at least reconsider when you’re tempted to hit the ALL button. Take a Pick 3, for example, that wraps around one of your top plays. You like a 7-2 horse, a 6-1 horse, and a 10-1 horse in the first leg, you’ve identified a 9-2 runner in the second leg that you absolutely love, and the last race in the sequence is a turf sprint with 12 runners. You could mash the ALL button and bet a $1 Pick 3 for $36 (3x1x12) or you could spend the extra time handicapping and remove the horses you think have little to no chance and maybe one of the favorites that you feel like is going to be significantly overbet. Now, you’ve whittled it down to 3x1x6 and the bet is $18 or, even better, you play it for $2 instead. Maybe you’ve analyzed the pace and you think half the field will be gunning for the lead and you decide to play two stalkers and two closers you like based on the pace scenario. Now, you’ve got a 3x1x4 ticket for $12 or you can play it for $3 and really try for a sweet score.

8. Skip the Jackpot Wager

This probably doesn't qualify as a lesson learned, since I've never been a jackpot player, but it's a point worth making here. The allure of a six-figure jackpot is tempting. Why do you think PowerBall and Mega Millions generate so much buzz when they soar past $250 million? But like those lottery games, the odds are stacked against the horseplayer for jackpot wagers. For one, a large percentage (usually at least 25%) of the money bet into the pool carries over to the next race day unless there is only one winning ticket. So, there is a chance you could hit a Pick 6 and still essentially share what amount to a consolation payout with the other winning tickets. Plus, there is the astronomical takeout when you consider the money rolling over. Let’s say for example that the track takes 20% of all money wagered off the top and another 30% is rolled over until there is a single winner. That means that everyone but the winner is essentially playing that multi-race bet with a 50% takeout, which is a terrible investment of gambling resources. Now, if there is a mandatory payout at the end of a meet or at the end of a big weekend, count me in. Otherwise, I will never invest a dollar in a jackpot wager. You’re better off playing a standard Pick 4, Pick 5, or Pick 6.

Note: This story was originally published in December 2018.

(Video) How Science is Taking the Luck out of Gambling - with Adam Kucharski


What was Bill Benter algorithm? ›

In 1988, Bill made his return to Hong Kong, having created an algorithm with twenty Horse Racing variables, which would spit out what he believed were the true odds of a horse. In other words, if a bookmaker had a horse at odds of 3.50, but his model believed the horse should be 2.80, he would bet on that edge.

What is the smartest bet in horse racing? ›

Many people consider the Lucky 15 one of the smartest bet in horse racing as it gives lots of options and bet types.

Is Quentin Franks racing any good? ›

Quentin Franks Racing is one of the best horse racing tipsters out there and one of the few services that have been around for so long. It is no wonder the bookies are on his tail! We were pleased to still be able to make a profit at the available odds and also at Betfair SP.

What bet can you do with 8 horses? ›

A Goliath is a bet on eight selections taking part in various events consisting of 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 fourfolds, 56 fivefolds, 28 sixfolds, eight sevenfolds and an eightfold accumulator totalling 247 bets.

What is the most profitable way to bet? ›

The best strategy in sports betting
  • An over or under bet.
  • Over or under bets per team.
  • Handicap victories, i.e. victories with a difference of several goals.
  • Low winning odds.
  • Half-time bets.
  • Early or late goals.

What is the easiest bet to win in horse racing? ›

$2.00. The easiest wager in horse racing, a show bet pays off if your horse finishes first, second, or third. Payoffs are usually smaller than those generated by win or place bets. You win the wager if your horse finishes first, second, or third.

What is the smartest way to bet? ›

Promoted Stories
  1. The favourite doesn't always win. ...
  2. Don't just stick to one bookmaker – shop around. ...
  3. The fewer selections, the better. ...
  4. Avoid the temptation of odds-on prices. ...
  5. Consider the less obvious markets. ...
  6. Make sure you understand the markets. ...
  7. Don't bet with your heart. ...
  8. Pick your moment.
11 Apr 2018

What is the safest type of bet? ›

Double Chance allows betting on two outcomes of a sporting event, increasing the chances of winning. This type of bet is commonly used in football matches. It's one of the easiest and safest bets on football because it involves two possible results.

Who is the best horse racer of all time? ›

Many experts agree that Man o' War is the best racehorse in history. The fiery chestnut won 20 of his 21 starts during his career from 1919-1920, a truly impressive feat. Man o' War was born on March 29, 1917, at Nursery Stud, near Lexington, Kentucky. Adored by his fans, he gained the nickname Big Red.

Who is the fastest horse racer in the world? ›

Quarter horses racing 440-yard have been timed running 55 mph, the fastest recorded speed of any horse. Guinness World Record recognizes Winning Brew, a Thoroughbred, as the fastest horse in the world at 43.97 mph.

What is the best bet in greyhound racing? ›

The most common way to bet on greyhound racing is to either pick a dog and back it to win a particular race, or you can back a dog to be placed in order to have a better chance of winning. This means it must finish in the top two, though your winnings will be lower than if you select a dog to win the race.

What is the most common horse bet? ›

A win bet is the most common and straightforward bet. You're simply betting on a specific horse to finish in first place. If the horse that you wager on doesn't finish first, you lose the bet. Of the straight bets, this usually offers the best payout, as it has the greatest risk.

What age of a horse is best to bet on? ›

Younger is better for stallions, he added, with the ideal window being between three and six years old, peaking at four. The age-related speed drop-off translates to a one second difference for a one mile race if a foal was born to a 15-year-old female compared to a five-year-old mother, the team found.

Is it best to bet on a horse each-way or to win? ›

Be very wary of betting each-way in big, fields. In general, the punter has an advantage over the each-way bookmaker in fields 'Of eight to 12 runners if he backs each-way horses quoted at 7/1 or shorter for the win. The shorter the win price, the greater the advantage for a place.

Is there an algorithm for horse racing? ›

The TRC Computer Ratings algorithm is highly adaptable to different racing conditions around the world and can rate horses on a level playing field, no matter the competition, no matter whether conditions stretch out the runners – as on soft going in Europe – or shrink the distances between them – as on firm going in ...

What is the most important factor in horse racing? ›

Of the many things to consider, the one factor that will probably be near the top of most punters list of important handicapping factors is the going, or essentially the horse's ability on the going.

How did Bill Benter get rich? ›

His annual winnings leaped into the millions when Benter began incorporating the Hong Kong Jockey Club's live betting odds into his system. The first year he did this, the 1990-91 season, saw him win an impressive $3 million.

What is the easiest option to win bet? ›

What are the easiest bets to win?
  • BTTS: BTTS bet demands the punters to predict if both teams will score a goal or not. ...
  • Over/Under: This bet can work in your favor when you have chosen a smaller figure as reference. ...
  • Double chance bet: In this bet, you win money when any two from the three outcomes are obtained.

What is the most money lost on a bet? ›

Terrance Watanabe

He placed a stunning $835 million in bets and lost $127 million of it. According to reports, Watanabe's excruciating losing streak is the longest Las Vegas has ever witnessed and he was seen drunk during his sessions.

What is the best bet for 4 horses? ›

A Yankee and a Lucky 15 are both multiple bets suitable for four selections in different events.

Is it better to place a bet early or late? ›

A generally accepted strategy in NFL betting is to place bets early in the week, and it's a fairly simple principle: As bettors make wagers, bookmakers adjust their lines, and those lines only become more accurate and thus harder to beat.

How do I learn horse racing bets? ›

Take a look at our beginner's guide to winning at horse racing to put yourself on the right path!
  1. Don't just bet on the favourite. ...
  2. Understanding horse racing terminology. ...
  3. Get to know your horses. ...
  4. Get to know your surfaces. ...
  5. Get to know your trainers. ...
  6. Get to know your jockey. ...
  7. Get to know the signs of a confident horse.
4 Feb 2019

What do sharp bettors look for? ›

To be considered a sharp sports bettor you need to win roughly 55% of your bets or more. The sharpest pros in the world hit around 60% are very few ever exceed 65%. This means pros are losing 40% to 45% of their bets. However, this still means they are winning more games than they lose.

How do I win a bet without losing? ›

Beginner's Methods Of Winning Bets Without Losing
  1. Carry out Extensive Research. ...
  2. Avoid Overconfidence. ...
  3. Make use of a Handicapper. ...
  4. Avoid Parlays.
14 Jul 2022

Which bet type is best? ›

Betting Types Quick-Facts

Single bets are ideal for novice sports bettors. 2 Way and 3 Way bets are easy to use in most sports. Accumulator bets can produce high odds. System bets are ideal for serious or professional sports bettors.

How can I bet with no risk? ›

Bettors utilize a no-risk strategy called back and lay betting. It involves playing two opposite bets on the same event at two different sites.

What is the most unpredictable sport to bet on? ›

Baseball is a challenging sport to bet on for beginners. This is because, unlike most other sports, baseball is actually quite unpredictable. The MLB has a really long and strenuous 162-game season, combined with the streakiness of players and the team form, which makes wagering particularly complicated.

Where is the best place to place a bet? ›

Top 10 US sports betting sites
  • FanDuel Sportsbook.
  • BetMGM Sportsbook.
  • Caesars Sportsbook.
  • WynnBET Sportsbook.
  • BetRivers Sportsbook.
  • DraftKings Sportsbook.
  • PointsBet Sportsbook.
  • FOX Bet Sportsbook.

Who is the smartest horse in the world? ›

Bill Key, born a slave, overcame many obstacles to become a veterinarian and a businessman. Key's horse, Jim, was eventually recognized as the world's smartest horse and accompanied Key in his work with the Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Who owned Secretariat when he died? ›

Helen “Penny” Chenery, owner of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat and a well-loved figure in her own right as a champion of Thoroughbreds and women in business and sports, died Sept. 16, in her Colorado home following complications from a stroke. She was 95.

Who is the most famous horse ever? ›

Secretariat is widely considered the most famous ever. Due to his unrivaled horse racing career, numerous equine awards and status in Hollywood, almost everyone knew of this horse. When Secretariat became the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 25, the world sat up and took notice.

What number horse wins the most? ›

The answer may surprise you. According to data from Equibase, over the past ten years, horses in post position number five have won the most races. In fact, horses in post five have won almost 13% of all races run during that period. That's significantly higher than any other post position.

What is the most beautiful horse in the world? ›

The Akhal-Teke horse is so beautiful that it can be compared to a golden statue. With his thin skin, it looks almost metallic in sunlight. The Akhal-Teke is considered the most beautiful horse in the world by

Is Usain Bolt faster than a horse? ›

With their lean and muscular physique, thoroughbreds can reach speeds of up to 55 mph, while the world's fastest human, Usain Bolt, lags behind with a top speed of only 27 mph.

What number greyhound wins the most? ›

The number 1 box also produces the most winners (see below "stats"), so we just want to then look at recent race times at Wentworth Park over 520m compared to the other greyhounds.

How do greyhounds predict winners? ›

Good draws win races

Look for the races when the runner in trap one is the only railer – that's a dog who prefers to run on the inside of the track. If every other dog has a 'm' for middle runner or 'w' for wide runner in brackets after its name, you've found the ideal race.

Is it better to bet favorites? ›

If you're betting a favorite on the money line, you're likely going to win more often than you lose, but that doesn't mean you'll return a profit long term. Because you're paying more of a premium with odds when wagering on money line favorites, you need to ensure that a favorite's win probability outpaces the odds.

How do you win big in horse racing? ›

8 Easiest Ways Of Winning Big When Betting On Horses This 2021
  1. Understand That There Are No Certainties. Horse race betting in nature doesn't have certainties. ...
  2. Keep a Betting Record. ...
  3. Avoid Getting Too Emotional. ...
  4. Lay On “Sure Bets” ...
  5. Look For The Favorite. ...
  6. Form a Versatile Strategy. ...
  7. Takeaway.
21 Jan 2021

What was the biggest bet in history? ›

(WXIX/Gray News) - Texas business mogul Jim McIngvale, known as the “Mattress Mack,” placed the biggest legal sports wager of all-time at $5 million on the Cincinnati Bengals moneyline (+170), according to Caesars Sportsbook.

What is the number 1 horse? ›

2022 leaderboard
RankHorseSpeed Figure
1Country Grammer110
2Emblem Road0
4Life Is Good125
22 more rows

At what age of a horse should you stop riding it? ›

Some horses have physical conditions or diseases that require an early retirement. Other horses can be ridden late into their life without issues. As a general rule, most horses should stop being ridden between 20 to 25 years old. Any horse, no matter their age, still requires a decent amount of exercise.

What is the most profitable way to bet on horses? ›

The Accumulator and other multiple horse bets (pick 6) are the most profitable horse racing bets and the riskiest. To win an Accumulator bet, you have to correctly forecast the winner of six races before the start of the first race.

At what age is a race horse at its peak? ›

Most jump racehorses are at the peak of their ability between the ages of seven and ten. Racehorses are allowed to race from the age of two years old.

How can you tell which horse will win? ›

Look for a horse with a shiny coat, nicely arched neck, spring in his stride and alert, energized demeanor. Horses that are sweating profusely, bucking or exhibiting other nervous behavior may expend too much energy before the race to produce an optimal effort.

What is a dirty each-way bet? ›

Dirty/snide/thieving each way bets can be found in races were there is generally a strong favourite (usually odds on), and a second and maybe third favourite with only small chance of upsetting the market leaders but a very good chance of filling the places.

Is there an algorithm for gambling? ›

Sports betting algorithms are programs that use mathematical deductions to calculate the probability of sports betting outcomes. This technology was not highly rated at first, however, it is gradually becoming mainstream as many are beginning to see it on the good side.

What was American Pharoah's odds? ›

Challenging older horses such as Tonalist and Honor Code for the first time in his career, as well as previous rivals Keen Ice and Frosted, American Pharoah led from gate-to-wire, challenged only by Effinex, racing at 33–1 odds, who placed 6+1⁄2 lengths behind the winner.

Which is the best gambling strategy? ›

The most reasonable strategies include betting less than 2% of your bankroll, wagering on the banker hand, taking craps odds, and making even-money bets in French roulette. These help you pull in consistent wins and limit the risk factor. Riskier systems include the Martingale, Labouchere, and Oscar's Grind.

What is the most profitable way to bet on horse racing? ›

The Accumulator and other multiple horse bets (pick 6) are the most profitable horse racing bets and the riskiest. To win an Accumulator bet, you have to correctly forecast the winner of six races before the start of the first race.

What kind of math is used in gambling? ›

Generally, skilled gamblers assess the risk of each round based on the mathematical properties of probability, odds of winning, expected value, volatility index, length of play, and size of bet. These factors paint a numerical picture of risk and tell the player whether a bet is worth pursuing.

What type of math is used in gambling? ›

Combinatorial calculus is an important part of gambling probability applications. In games of chance, most of the gambling probability calculus in which we use the classical definition of probability reverts to counting combinations. The gaming events can be identified with sets, which often are sets of combinations.

What part of the brain controls gambling? ›

The evidence indicates that gambling activates the brain's reward system in much the same way that a drug does. "Across many studies, the same brain areas come up time and time again — the ventral striatum and the prefrontal cortex," says Luke Clark, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia.

Who is faster American Pharoah vs Secretariat? ›

Secretariat was more than 2.6 seconds faster than Pharoah. To put that number in perspective, that's roughly the difference between Pharoah and the fifth-place finisher on Saturday, Frammento, who finished nearly 14 lengths out, according to Trakus, a system that charts horses' speed and distance using GPS technology.

Who was faster American Pharoah or Justify? ›

American Pharoah went faster than Justify over the first half-mile (:46.49 vs. :47.19), but Justify caught up after three-quarters of a mile and traveled more than 2 ½ seconds faster than American Pharoah over the final 7/16ths of a mile, getting the distance in :44.51 seconds compared with :47.04 for American Pharoah.

How many lengths would Secretariat beat American Pharoah? ›

Picture how far ahead of the field American Pharoah was at the end of the Belmont. Now double it (multiply by 2.4 to be exact). That's about how far American Pharoah would have been lagging behind Secretariat (13 ¼ lengths).

How can I improve my gambling skills? ›

Best Ways to Improve Your Gambling Skills
  1. Practice makes perfect.
  2. Expert advice is invaluable.
  3. Watching others play is informative.
  4. Learn from mistakes you make.
28 Jun 2022

How do I win a bet all the time? ›

How do you win at sports betting?
  1. Set a Bankroll. This may be the most important step because if you don't know how much money you're comfortable losing, things could get out of hand. ...
  2. Study, Study, Study. If you want to win on your own terms, it will take time. ...
  3. Shopping Odds. ...
  4. Don't Trust Touts.

How do you master a horse bet? ›

8 Easiest Ways Of Winning Big When Betting On Horses This 2021
  1. Understand That There Are No Certainties. Horse race betting in nature doesn't have certainties. ...
  2. Keep a Betting Record. ...
  3. Avoid Getting Too Emotional. ...
  4. Lay On “Sure Bets” ...
  5. Look For The Favorite. ...
  6. Form a Versatile Strategy. ...
  7. Takeaway.
21 Jan 2021


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